PULLMAN – When Bill Moos was introduced as Washington State’s athletic director 11/2 years ago, he promised make changes around Bohler Gym.
Some are easy to see. Just walk the halls, recently adorned with pictures and graphic designs, all with a WSU theme. Or wander to the west side of Martin Stadium, where signs herald the future home of a football-only facility.
Others are hidden from view, more about a culture he’s brought that makes saying yes to new ideas the default position. Those changes have been fueled not only by the force of Moos’ personality – the former Cougars offensive lineman fills a room with more than just his physical presence – but also by the money about to flow from the Pac-12’s new media contract.
We sat down with Moos in his office this week to talk about the changes that have occurred and those on the drawing table, along with the changes to the Pac-12 that didn’t happen. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. When Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott recently announced the conference had decided not to expand, he mentioned a culture of equality. That culture hasn’t been in place all that long, has it?
A. Not at all. Not until we established the equal division of our television revenue-sharing a year ago. Coming out of that, there was a sense of harmony and an opportunity to see everyone have a legitimate chance to be competitive. We’re a diverse conference from the desert to the mountains to the oceans, literally stretching from Canada to Mexico. But we do have common ground. … And we have a great deal of respect for each other. We’re also a very proud conference. I may go even a little beyond (that) because it was a thrill for me having played in the conference when it was the Pac-8, working in it for 20 years as the Pac-10, and then being at the table to help really develop the Pac-12. When the dust settled, this conference turned out just the way I wanted it to in regards to who the members were, how the conference was divided for football and, of course, the revenue-sharing component. I’m very happy that we are staying with 12 members and really feel that we will be a very strong conference and very highly regarded across the country.
Q. That being said, would you support expansion if Scott felt it was best for the conference?
A. Well, at Washington State, we are better served with the conference as it is today. We have a legitimate chance to compete for the Pac-12 North Division football championship, which would put us a game away from the Rose Bowl. When you look at the potential – as we did a year ago – of the Pac-16, it probably would have had Washington State in a western division made up of the old Pac-8 schools. To get to the Rose Bowl, you would have to compete with Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA and Washington and then, if you can get through that, you have to play a championship game against Oklahoma or Texas or Arizona State or Colorado. So I think we’re best served competitively with the conference the way it exists today.
Q. Where do Martin Stadium changes, the new football-only facility, seating upgrades and press box, stand?
A. We’re moving ahead very rapidly. The design team is working very hard and doing a fabulous job. We updated the regents three weeks ago as to where we are. Our hope is to get their approval on the 18th of November, play Utah on the 19th and begin demolition of the south-side press box for 6 o’clock on the morning of the 21st. We’ve been very pleased with the support of President Floyd and everyone here on campus that’s involved and also very encouraged by the support to date of the regents. I think our fans are intrigued and excited and they have to be, because we need their help to see the entire vision become a reality.
Q. In the spring, you thought the Board of Regents might approve the plan at its September meeting. Why weren’t they?
A. We did not have all the design elements ready. We felt we could have it ready for October, but that meeting was canceled and so now we’re going to have our backs against the wall in that late November meeting. We pretty much have the south side of the stadium finished in regards to design. We’ve condensed the scope of the football operations building, which I felt we were probably going to do anyway, and so we had to change the configuration and that has set us back a bit on that piece.
Q. Switching to the football team, how do you feel it has played?
A. I thought we started out very well with two good wins here at home. Certainly, the schedule has been kinder to us this year. I like the look of our players. We have legitimate major college football players on the field now. We don’t have as many as we need to be in the hunt for a championship, but we’re gaining ground there. And I think that has shown. I was disappointed in our loss at San Diego State, because we were in control of the game and we were competing very well against a good football team, but let it slip away in the fourth quarter. And in order to be competitive in this conference, you have to have the mentality to win those types of games in the fourth quarter. We don’t have that yet. It’s one thing to beat Idaho State and UNLV handily, but it’s another thing when you’re in a fight going in to the fourth quarter. Now a year ago I had made the statement that I was hoping that we would be in a position to be going into the fourth quarter and still have our game plan intact and have a chance to win. We did that. Now I’m looking for that next step, to not just compete in the fourth quarter but to win that fourth quarter. I think we’re making progress. We’re still a young team and hopefully we’ll learn from that. When we do get into another situation this year – it will happen and it’ll be a conference game – we need to come out on top.
Q. In the past you have a track record of building in a rolling extension into coach’s contracts. Is that something you are planning to do with Paul Wulff?
A. Yes, I’ve done those things in the past. As far as Paul’s situation, we’ll continue to observe and assess. Paul and I are in conversations and, of course, recruiting is a big part of it. I know that recruiting can be hurt a bit if there is not a lot of security and stability in the coaching staff, so something has to be done this year. Whether it would be an extension or a rollover, I have not made that determination yet. But I like the rollovers in coaching contracts because it gives a recruit the security of knowing that, in all likelihood, the coaches recruiting them are going to be there for the duration of their eligibility.
Q. Next year’s nonconference football schedule includes a game with Eastern Washington in Pullman and a trip to UNLV. I’ve heard there is a chance you will be opening at BYU. Any truth to that?
A. We haven’t signed the contract but we were set to play BYU later, I think in 2015, ’16, ’17, somewhere in there. My contacts with ESPN inquired about us moving that series up. There were a lot of things that had to take place, which the people at ESPN managed for us, so it looks like there’s a good possibility that we could open up at BYU for the 2012 season and have them return in 2013.
Q. There have been a lot of cosmetic changes around the athletic department. How important is that to you?
A. Branding and marketing are extremely important and part of our blueprint for Cougar athletics. It really began with our partnership with Nike, putting the uniforms together and establishing our crimson and our gray, so we get a consistency in colors fonts and logos. And then that evolves into … the facilities themselves, not just the end zones and the baselines but also branding the interior and exterior of the facilities in a tasteful manner. I think it’s very important. We took our basketball practice facility, which was pretty much agreed upon was the worst-looking in the conference and, for less than $100,000, we now have the best-looking basketball practice facility. … It will continue throughout Bohler Gym in the course of the next three weeks and then move over to Beasley Coliseum. That of course includes the four-panel replay scoreboard, which is going up right now.
Q. Most of the attention right now is on football. But how do you feel the rest of the sports are doing?
A. We really like our new coaches and they have already shown me that they are capable of taking their individual programs several notches higher than they’ve been. (New volleyball coach) Jen Greeny is no stranger to the Cougars and she has got a young team believing in themselves and competing as well as they can. Our swimming and golf programs, I feel that we are going to see the same kind of improvement in our ability to perform and compete. Soccer is off to a great start and cross country is solid as always. I really feel just walking the halls and talking to our student-athletes, there’s a genuine pride in being a Cougar and that they truly feel the future is bright. That’s what we needed to instill here as we put our plan into action.